New blood test could help predict and prevent post-partum depression

The birth of a child is normally a great moment of joy, but for some mothers this joy can turn into the baby blues, which is a common reaction for new mothers that feel overwhelmed, but in a number of cases into can turn into a full- fledged depression, known as post partum depression.

Post partum depression is usually triggered by hormonal changes and imbalance and can last a number of years and symptoms include sluggishness, fatigue, uncontrollable crying, lack of interest in the baby, mood swings, and fear of harming the baby or oneself, and in very severe cases, psychotic episodes.

According to studies, children of women who suffer from PPD can also suffer, because lack attention and affection and puts them at higher risk of learning and emotional difficulties in later life.

Now researchers on both sides of the Atlantic - at Warwick University and Johns Hopkins Universityin Baltimore, have found that two specific genes that temporarily alter during pregnancy, could be the culprit for post-natal depression.

A blood test- which could become available within the next two to five years - can screen for the two genes during pregnancy and help predict the onset of depression, which would allow women at risk to seek early treatment and reduce the symptoms or even prevent them from developing.

Dr Zachary Kaminsky, who leading the study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said: “Post-partum depression can be harmful to both mother and child. But we don't have a reliable way to screen for the condition before it causes harm. A test like this could be that way.”

"It is extremely important because there is evidence if you can identify women at risk early, you can treat them early or introduce measures early in order to stop the process of the disease," said Professor Dimitris Grammatopoulos at the Warwick Medical School.

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